Raises for prison staff tops bills passed in W.Va. special session

A busy, three-day special session ended Tuesday night. Lawmakers arrived with more than 40 items to consider and most passed. A top priority prison staffing.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 7:09 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A busy, three-day special session came to an end Tuesday night at West Virginia’s State Capitol.

Lawmakers arrived with more than 40 items to consider, and most passed.

A top priority was reversing low staffing in the state’s prisons -- vacancies so high, prisons have been operating under a state of emergency for a year.

The solution -- a package of bills to improve working conditions and increase pay, with first-year correctional officers receiving a $5,000 raise; $7,000 for second-year officers; and $10,000 for third-year officers. That’s on top of retention bonuses and a stipend for those who choose to fill a critical need.

Governor Jim Justice, R-West Virginia, praised the move Wednesday.

“We have been wallering around with this for way too long,” he said.

WSAZ NewsChannel 3′s Curtis Johnson asked Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr --- Will the plan work?

“When will we see a difference?” Johnson asked.

“I don’t think anybody in corrections could tell you how fast we will be able to fill these positions with this,” Tarr replied. “So we’re going to have to look at the rate of their hiring.”

“But, with that said, you feel confident there’s going to be a positive impact?” Johnson followed up.

“There’s going to be a positive impact, yeah,” he replied.

Demolition is now clearing way for a new cyber security program at Marshall University.

Lawmakers approved $45 million for that project.

“I have a lot of confidence we’re going to be a global leader very soon in training people to go into the cyber security sector, and you’ll going to see industry pop up around that,” Tarr said.

Lawmakers also fixed an issue with the car tax credit. It ensures you receive a refund for the second half of this year’s car tax regardless if you pay the full amount in 2023 or wait to pay the second half early next year.

“One, it just helps with confusion and it’s just this year,” Tarr said. “So, this is a fix for a one-year problem because moving forward you will be able to apply those tax credits -- as long as you’re paying timely -- for any given year.”

The State Police Academy received $1 million dollars for security upgrades. That comes amid investigation into reports of a hidden video camera in the women’s locker room.

Lawmakers also passed legislation creating West Virginia’s newest state park at Summersville Lake.

Barring a significant emergency, this is likely the last special session of the year.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw announced Tuesday night that the House Chamber will be undergoing renovations and it won’t be accessible to delegates until January.